Gove vows to stop 'unscrupulous landlords' profiting from cost of living crisis

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 26: Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, leaves BBC Broadcasting House after his appearance on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg on March 26, 2023 in London, England. The weekly interview show features politicians and other newsmakers in conversation with the BBC's former political editor. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Housing secretary Michael Gove promised more help for tenants as he appeared on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme. (Getty Images)

Housing secretary Michael Gove has said he will move to stop "unscrupulous" landlords who are raising their tenants' rent well above inflation.

It comes amid reports of some landlords increasing their rents by 20-30%, at a time when many people are struggling with the rising cost of living.

With many homeowners facing a sharp rise in mortgage rates, many are covering their costs by raising their tenants' rates, but Gove said that some are exploiting this economic pressure to profiteer.

“At the moment there’s a situation where tenants can be evicted without any fault on their part," he told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.

"And a tiny minority of unscrupulous landlords are using the threat of eviction to jack up rents and victimise tenants," he added.

When asked if he thought it was acceptable for landlords to raise rent above inflation, he responded: "No."

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FIMI Drone Camera
Some have reported landlords raising rent by as much as 30% as they capitalise on the cost of living crisis. (Getty Images)

He added: “In every market there will always be actors who will attempt to exploit circumstances in their interests, not in the public interest.”

The housing secretary said the government is bringing forward reforms in the coming months which "look at how the private rental sector can be better regulated", although he ruled out the idea of rent caps or freezes.

“We do need to make sure that we protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords as we also give landlords the power to get rid of anti-social tenants as well," he added.

What changes to private renting has Michael Gove proposed?

Last summer the housing secretary set out a series of proposals for the private rental sector, including banning Section 21 "no fault" evictions, which allow landlords to evict their tenants without giving a reason.

A government white paper, titled A Fairer Private Rented Sector, suggests ending the use of rent review clauses and helping tenants challenge "excessive rent" hikes through the First Tier Tribunal.

The proposals also include a "Decent Homes" standard that privately rented homes will legally have to meet for the first time, and introducing a mandatory Ombudsman scheme which all landlords must join.

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Dirty windows and closed curtains obscure the interiors of rented flats located on the South Circular, between Clapham and Streatham in south London, on 30th January 2023, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Landlords and agents have warned many people may stop investing in properties if too much red tape is introduced. (Getty Images)

Protections for landlords could also be brought into law include making it easier for them to gain possession of their properties when necessary.

The policy paper adds: "We will expedite landlords’ ability to evict those who disrupt neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour and introduce new grounds for persistent arrears and sale of the property."

How these proposals will be brought into law will be clearer once the government puts forward its Renters’ Reform Bill during this parliament.

Backlash from landlords

Earlier this year Michael Gove was sent a warning letter signed by 330 agents and landlords urging him to ease up on measures that could restrict the letting industry.

"We believe that current government policy in the rental sector — covering 35% of UK homes — is stoking housing inflation, the largest single component of the cost of living," the letter says.

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It says that while improving the quality of housing and peace of mind about evictions are "worthy objectives", tenants "also want their housing to be affordable", claiming current policy "appears to ignore this point".

Policies to restrict landlords' rights, raise minimum energy efficiency standards in homes, enhance obligations for HMOs and increase maintenance costs are putting "undue pressure on landlords - most of whom have only one or two rental properties", the letter adds.

"Already, we see net negative repercussions on rental supply, with many landlords leaving the sector; property portal data shows that supply is down 46% compared with the five year average."

With tenant demand at an "all time high", the letter says: "Many surviving landlords are understandably looking to cover their increased costs via higher rents".

"By failing to encourage adequate supply, government policy is directly contributing to the sharp increases in rental prices," it adds.

Cracking down on antisocial behaviour

As the government vows to "make it easier for landlords to repossess their homes" in cases of antisocial behaviour, it is also attempting to clean up the streets.

Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Gove announced that the sale of laughing gas to the public will be banned as part of a wider crackdown on antisocial behaviour.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the “scourge” of nitrous oxide is turning public spaces into “drug-taking arenas” and is helping fuel anti-social behaviour that ministers are determined to stamp out.

The ban comes despite an assessment by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) concluding it would be disproportionate to bring in an outright ban given the level of harm associated with nitrous oxide.

Read more: What is laughing gas and what does it do to your body when inhaled?

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - 2020/05/25: A metallic nitrous oxide cartridge is seen thrown on the ground.
Nitrous oxide, nicknamed
Gove said the government will crack down on the “scourge” of nitrous oxide. (Getty Images)

Gove told the programme: “I think any of us who have had the opportunity to walk through our parks in our major cities will have seen these little canisters - these silver canisters which are examples of people not only despoiling public spaces but also people taking a drug which can have a psychological and neurological affect and one that contributes to anti-social behaviour overall.”

The senior Tory MP was questioned over his admission in 2019 to having taken cocaine on a "number of occasions" when he was younger.

Asked if the public might see his stance on laughing gas as "hypocritical", he said: “No, I think it is because I have learned.”

Pressed on what he'd learned, he said: “That it is a mistake — worse than a mistake — to regard drug taking as somehow acceptable.”